Ibish, Pipes and St. Pierre Discuss International Anti-American Sentiment
CNBC – The News with Brian Williams August 15, 2002 Thursday (excerpt)
HEADLINE: Daniel Pipes from Middle East Forum, Roger St. Pierre from British magazine Holiday and Leisure World, and Hussein Ibish from American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee discuss anti-American sentiment in Europe
FORREST SAWYER, anchor: Let’s take a closer look at the world looks at the US these days and why. We’re joined by Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum and a columnist for both the New York Post and The Jerusalem Post. He is with us from Philadelphia. Joining us from London tonight, Roger St. Pierre. He is the editor of the British travel magazine, Holiday and Leisure World, and he is a frequent visitor to the United States.
And in Washington tonight, Hussein Ibish, who is director of communications for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Daniel, let me–let me start with you, if I may. If you were to cook down the criticism of the United States, it might come down to something like this. The United States is following a unilateral policy. It is pursuing what is–it sees in its own narrow self-interest, and it is not going to pay much attention to complaints from allies or critics outside that group. Is that a fair criticism?
Mr. DANIEL PIPES (Middle East Forum): Well, no, it’s not a fair criticism, Forrest. The United States has responsibilities. The Europeans don’t. We can do something about Iraq. The Europeans can’t. We’re going to probably do something about Iraq. The Europeans are going to be on the sidelines sniping. There’s a wonderful phrase that the analyst Robert Kagan developed, which is that Americans are from Mars; Europeans are from Venus. Another way of putting it is that Americans are adults; Europeans are children.
SAWYER: Well, I’ll just catch up on what you’re saying there. The United States is going to do something about Iraq, and the Europeans are going to be on the sides sniping. As I recall, President Bush, the first President Bush, spent quite a deal of time on coalition building. And it doesn’t appear at least publicly that this administration is building a coalition, and if they’re trying to, they’re not being very effective.
Mr. PIPES: And a lot has happened in a decade. The difference in power between the United States military, power between the United States and Europe has grown enormously. They were a significant factor a decade ago. They are not today.
SAWYER: Mr. Ibish…
Mr. HUSSEIN IBISH (American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee): Yes.
SAWYER: …what is the problem? Why is the United States so disliked?
Mr. IBISH: Well, I mean, I think first of all, we can probably all agree that any country that’s amassed the kind of power the United States has is going to be resented by smaller powers. And that’s simply a natural state of affairs. But it’s being compounded tremendously by our unilateralist policies, by our unilateralist policies on things like landmines, global warming, steel tariffs and, of course, above all, on the question of Iraq. I think that all of our allies all over the world, all our European allies, all our Middle Eastern allies except Israel, even Turkey, Jordan, even Kuwait, are warning us against this, saying it’s unjustified, it’s unnecessary, and that it threatens to destabilize the whole region. I think that the world feels that the United States is going to inflict on us another war, yet another war, in the Middle East, one that’s avoidable and one that really is totally unjustified, and they are amazed to see that our government doesn’t seem to be interested in international law or their concerns.
SAWYER: I think–I think, Mr. St. Pierre, what–what a lot of Americans would say in response to that is, ‘How could it be that it is totally unjustified?’ Here you have a man who is pursuing weapons of mass destruction, who has used them against his own people and clearly has a willingness to use them against others.
Mr. ROGER ST. PIERRE (Holiday & Leisure World): Well, I–I can agree with that, except that we also have to say that other–other powers in the world have weapons of mass destruction, and it strikes me that it seems rather unfair that the American nation thinks it should be able to dic–dictate that it can have weapons of mass destruction, that it can put prisoners in Guantanamo Bay in conditions just unacceptable throughout the rest–rest of the civilized world, and that there’s one law for America and another law for the rest of us. Daniel’s opening remark actually summed up the problem. He said the Europeans are children; the Americans are adults. I’m afraid in Europe it’s perceived exactly the other way around.
Mr. IBISH: Right. I think around the world, people…
SAWYER: Well–just a–just a second, Mr. Ibish.
Mr. IBISH: Oh, I’m sorry.
SAWYER: What do you mean it’s seen the other way around?
Mr. ST. PIERRE: Well, because we–the general view of–of Americans is that they are very insular. They have little knowledge of the rest of the world. They don’t travel outside of their own country. I mean, I went to a–I–I saw a shop in Chicago that was billed as the largest bicycle shop in the world. The three biggest shops, where are they? Then the shops in Denmark, they’re 10 times bigger. Everything you see in America trumpets, you know, biggest, best and all of the rest of it. Now, that may sound inoffensive, but when Americans then come to Europe and won’t accept that we have the biggest and best of some things, that Asia has the biggest and best–you know, there is no such thing as a greatest country in the world. I believe a country like Luxembourg has the same rights and–and pride in its nationality as a big nation like the States. And there are…
SAWYER: Mr. Ibish?
Mr. IBISH: Yeah, I think that what people are feeling in Europe and in the Middle East, including American Arab allies, Britain, France and Germany and many others, is that the United States, because of a certain insularity, a certain parochialism, a certain even arrogance, especially post-9/11, feeling that we can do whatever we want to because we have been so brutally victimized by terrorists, that we are losing sight of the big picture. We’re losing sight of the long-term political impact of our short-term policies, like what kind of effect an attack on Iraq now, under the current circumstances, would have on the Middle East and on the relationship between Arabs and Americans, and Arabs and the West.
SAWYER: Daniel, I think I heard an undertone–tell me if I’m wrong–in– in your statement before. It’s easy for these other countries to say things like that because they don’t carry the burden of having to fix some of the problems that are out there.
Mr. PIPES: Precisely. And–and Mr. St. Pierre talked about this insularness of the United States which I find amusing. I don’t know about bicycle shops. I do know the United States saved Europe twice in the last century, and we’re now at war a third time against a totalitarianism, and we’re going to save them again. They mess it up…
Mr. ST. PIERRE: You see, there…
Mr. PIPES: …we–we fix things.
Mr. ST. PIERRE: There–there in itself–there–there in itself is–is again a summing up: America saved Europe.
Mr. PIPES: We did.
Mr. ST. PIERRE: Europe was saved by the allies and the Russians probably more than anybody. The Americans made a huge contribution. So did Britain.
Mr. IBISH: May I add something here?
Mr. ST. PIERRE: But it–it was not America saving the world.
Mr. IBISH: May I–may I add…
Mr. ST. PIERRE: The world was saved by the allies.
Mr. IBISH: That’s right. May I add something also, which is that I think that ever since the end of the Cold War, and particularly since 9/11, the whole world has been dividing up to two camps, and it’s not East vs. West or the Christian world vs. the Islamic world. It’s people who believe in a clash of civilizations and want a clash of civilizations, and those who believe in tolerance. And I’m afraid that there are people in this country as well as in the Arab world, people including people like Richard Perle and others in the Defense Department who are the Iraq hawks, maybe even Mr. Pipes here…
Mr. PIPES: Well, no, no, no. Wait a second…
Mr. IBISH: …who are believers in a clash of civilization.
Mr. PIPES: I–I have–wait a second, Mr. Ibish…
SAWYER: Go ahead, David.
Mr. PIPES: I have very often–I’m on the record saying repeatedly I do not believe in the clash of civilizations. That’s not what’s going on.
Mr. IBISH: Well, you’re promoting these policies, that are designed to create such a clash.
Mr. PIPES: I am not. I am promoting…
Mr. IBISH: You certainly are.
Mr. PIPES: I am promoting the destruction of a…
Mr. IBISH: You want yet another war in the Middle East.
Mr. PIPES: Excuse me. I want to destroy…
Mr. IBISH: We don’t need another war in the Middle East.
SAWYER: Well, that’s– that’s a little off our point there, Mr. Ibish.
Mr. PIPES: Excuse me. I would like to…
SAWYER: Go ahead.
Mr. PIPES: …say that I’m in favor of destroying the evil totalitarian state that exists now in Iraq. I am desperately afraid of Saddam Hussein getting his hand on nuclear weapons…
Mr. IBISH: Yeah. Sure.
Mr. PIPES: …which is something that is a–is a prospect not far off, and I want to do something about it.
Mr. IBISH: I don’t think it’s a realistic prospect at all. I think that what you want actually is a full-scale confrontation between the West and the Islamic world, and I think it’s highly irresponsible, and I think it’s unfortunate.
SAWYER: I’ve got one minute left, and I’d like Mr. St. Pierre to join in.
Mr. IBISH: Please.
SAWYER: What–what–what do you make of this?
Mr. ST. PIERRE: Well, one–one of the things that–one–one of the things that bemuses me is this whole concept of the war on terrorism, which, you know, I totally support. Now, we have suffered from the IRA for three decades or more. We have lost four and a half thousand people to IRA bombs funded from Boston and New York, largely. Now, what we want to know in this country is: Is the war on terrorism–can–would the RAF be justified in bombing Boston because Boston harbors terrorism? You know, it is a case of double standards, and to show the insularity, Time magazine, the very respected journal, produced a list of the 100 most important people of the 20th century. And in that list there were only 16 non-Americans, six of whom, Charlie Chaplin included, made their na– made their name in America.
SAWYER: I have your point, sir. Mr…
Mr. ST. PIERRE: Included–included was Lucille Ball, but not President de Gaulle. I mean, that’s crazy, and that is the kind of attitude that gets America…
SAWYER: Professor Pipes, I’ve got 10 seconds. Would you say that there is something the United States could do to at least improve its communications?
Mr. PIPES: I think we certainly can. Paying more…
Mr. ST. PIERRE: Absolutely. I think…
SAWYER: Mr. Pipes?
Mr. PIPES: I think we can pay more attention, but I think we’re on the right track, and it’s a–it’s a matter of improved communications not improved policy.
Mr. IBISH: Well, what we don’t need is another war in the Middle East. That will not help anybody.
SAWYER: Daniel Pipes, Roger St. Pierre and Hussein Ibish, forgive me.
I’m out of time. You all make good points, and I thank you for spending your time with us.
Mr. IBISH: Thank you so much.